Educator Piece: Beyond Four Walls

These past few weeks have been hard on everyone. For good reason, people all over the country have been guided to quarantine for the sake of their safety. As schools close, many educators are tasked with continuing to plan, prepare, and provide meaningful education opportunities for their students outside of the classroom walls. I am an English teacher at Henry Snyder High School in Jersey City, New Jersey, and I am part of the Summit Learning teaching team. When we were informed that our schools are closed, we knew we had to work diligently and come together as a community to provide quality remote education to our students during this time.

We knew transitioning to remote learning would be a challenge, but the transition has been made much easier for our students because we have been teaching them real-world skills to adapt to unexpected challenges. In addition to teaching curriculum, our teachers guide students to build habits – like curiosity, resilience, and a sense of purpose – that help them thrive throughout their lives. Though our teaching style was not originally intended to provide remote learning prior to this crisis, we have found that our students are well-prepared to adjust and self-direct their learning in a remote classroom experience. We’ve focused so much throughout the school year on teaching our students how to set goals and actively incorporate feedback, and this is an opportunity for our students to demonstrate their ability to be scholars and for us as educators to expand our teaching skills. Our teacher team believes we can rise to this occasion.  

In planning for remote learning, our teaching team agreed we would create digital and hard copies of instructions for our students to follow while we were apart. Because of the hard work of our Principal Yvonne Waller, our Summit Learning students have access to Chromebooks and wifi hotspots. Our students are continuing to work through their four core classes: English, History, Science, and Math, through the use of the Summit Learning platform. Summit Learning is a comprehensive education program geared to prepare students for life beyond the classroom, includes a focus on working on projects, and provides a free platform that houses curriculum, tests, and grading that we can access anywhere. Thus, students are continuing to work on projects that were assigned before our closures. For instance, in English students are required to complete their rough draft for their analytical portfolio and work with a partner to conduct a peer review before they submit their work to their teachers. For History, students can work on the assignments for their project and request feedback from their teachers before they are able to move on to the next section. 

Keeping an open line of communication with our students has been a priority for our teaching team since we came together three years ago. This commitment has made the transition to remote learning easier. We each use the Remind app to communicate with our students and families throughout the year, and will continue to utilize this tool as we teach remotely. Teachers are able to share information, resources, and have open communication at all times. In addition, students and parents and guardians are able to reach out to the teacher, or each other, for additional support and to submit work for feedback and guidance. Each student in our district is given an email address and our students, as well as their parents and guardians, are able to email us directly. We understand that a sense of community is a big part of school, so we created accounts with Zoom and each selected a day to conduct a video conference with any students that required additional support or if they just wanted to log in to say “hello.”  

These are hard times for students and families. Despite the circumstances, the educators at Henry Snyder High School are dedicated to ensuring students continue to have access to quality education beyond the four walls of the classroom.

About the author

Tynetta Harris
Tynetta Harris teaches English Language Arts in New Jersey’s Snyder High School. Tynetta has been an educator for over 9 years and believes it is important for students to be prepared for both professional and academic success. Tynetta Harris is also distinguished as one of the 2018 Teachers of the Year. Follow her on Twitter: @EducatorTDot